Snowden Shows South China Morning Post Details of NSA Hacking in China

If such a thing is possible, the intelligence community’s unhappiness with Edward Snowden has ratcheted up another notch. It was bad enough that he revealed yesterday that the NSA had been hacking targets in mainland China and Hong Kong.

Today, in a newly published interview in the South China Morning Post, Snowden showed a sample of some of the data he has:

The detailed records – which cannot be independently verified – show specific dates and the IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland hacked by the National Security Agency over a four-year period.

They also include information indicating whether an attack on a computer was ongoing or had been completed, along with an amount of additional operational information.

The small sample data suggests secret and illegal NSA attacks on Hong Kong computers had a success rate of more than 75 per cent, according to the documents. The information only pertains to attacks on civilian computers with no reference to Chinese military operations, Snowden said.

“I don’t know what specific information they were looking for on these machines, only that using technical exploits to gain unauthorised access to civilian machines is a violation of law. It’s ethically dubious,” Snowden said in the interview on Wednesday.

The article consistently uses the word “shown” rather than “given to” with respect to the detailed information, but it’s a safe bet that US outlets will depict him as having handed documents over to the SCMP, and hence to “China”. And even in more discerning circles, this move is likely to cost him sympathy points in the US. Based on the disclosure of Chinese hacking the previous day, the Congresscritters on the intelligence committee are now questioning his bona fides. From the Financial Times:

While many senior members of Congress have already labelled Mr Snowden a “traitor”, some lawmakers have started to raise suspicions about his links to China.

“We are going to make sure that there’s a thorough scrub of what his China connections are,” said Mike Rogers, chair of the House intelligence committee. “We need to ask a lot more questions about his motives and his connections – where he ended up, why he is there, how is he sustaining himself while he is there and is the Chinese government fully co-operating?”

Responding to Mr Snowden’s claim that while working at the NSA he could hack anyone’s phone or email, Mr Rogers replied said he “was lying”.

“He clearly has overinflated his position, he has overinflated his access and he’s even overinflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do,” said Mr Rogers. “It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

“It seems unusual that he would be in China and asking for protection of the Chinese government and giving press conferences to the Chinese media,” said Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee. “We’re going to investigate.”

“He chose to go to China, a country that’s cyber attacking us every single day, taking billions of dollars of American business data,” Mr Ruppersberger added.

Hhhm, the lady doth protest way too much. A talk with one paper is not a “press conference” and various experts have deemed Snowden’s choice of Hong Kong as a place to fight extradition to be savvy. But they’ve also said that even with the independence of Hong Kong relative to the mainland, that the government was likely to yield to pressure if Beijing decided to support the inevitable US extradition request. Snowden’s leaks look like a desperate gambit to increase friction between the US and China to prevent that. But this is going to make it easy to depict him as a traitor, ready to sell US secrets to save his hide. And how can Snowden disprove any claims made about his past dealings? The only thing he has in his favor is that going public and then trying to curry favor with the Chinese government is just about the dumbest way imaginable to trade on classified information.

Snowden alleged large-scale collection of information in China. From the SCMP:

One of the targets Snowden revealed was Chinese University, home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange which is a central hub of servers through which all web traffic in the city passes.

A university spokeswoman said yesterday that staff had not detected any attacks to its “backbone network”…

“The primary issue of public importance to Hong Kong and mainland China should be that the NSA is illegally seizing the communications of tens of millions of individuals without any individualised suspicion of wrongdoing,” Snowden said. “They simply steal everything so they can search for any topics of interest.”

But even if the surveillance overlords get even hotter under the collar, they were already in full bore “get him” mode. The NSA made a crime report to the Department of Justice in record time. The NSA’s internal police, Q Group, the DoJ, and Interpol have issued a Red Notice on him, which means the police in 190 countries are on the alert to arrest him and get him extradited. The British government has told airlines to deny Snowden passage to the UK (as if he’d want to go there).

Unless as Snowden himself mentioned, that the US either subjects him to extraordinary rendition or hires someone in the Chinese mafia to dispatch him, Snowden is shaping up to be a continuing source of embarrassment and consternation to the security state in the US. If he can stay out of their clutches long enough, it will be highly instructive to see how they contend with being under the bright lights for a change.

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  1. Chris Rogers

    It must be unnerving for US intelligence and the military that they are unable to take Snowden out in Hong Kong – I don’t think the Chinese are none too keen on allowing their airspace to be invaded by Drone’s.

    However, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    What we seeing play out is the US-establishment trying to get the upper hand in the PR-narrative, hence the utilisation of words such as ‘Traitor’.

    That Snowden was actually defending the US Constitution – something he’s honour bound to do, seems neither here nor there to these scoundrels.

    1. Richard Kline

      One has to admire a fellow who’s as all-in as Ed Snowden. He knows they’ll be coming for him, so wants their shorts on fire when they do. Right is on his side, not that the Powers That Be have ever cared about that, ‘the law’ is whatever they say it is today if you ask them their view on the matter . . . .

      1. Nathanael

        Snowden is actually brilliant.

        He figured out that when he spilled the beans on the unconstitutional, illegal spying operations, the US government and its allies would try to murder him, torture him, or imprison him without trial.

        Therefore he needed a safe haven, and one where he could show them that he deserved to be safe. He found a way to do so without revealing any US military secrets, by showing the Hong Kong government that its citizens and corporations were being spied on — after that, they’ll protect him. As they should.

        1. Richard Kline

          National power structures have zero compunction against doing what is immoral if it favors their interests; a does o’ the old raison d’etat. So China could and doubtless would shop Snowball Ed to the Shop if offered a juicy concession for possession of his person; he’s done nothing that would _compel_ Hong Kong or China to protect them.

          I do see a different aspect in his gambit. The position of the US spyboys, now shown redhanded as spying far over any formally granted authority on American citizens, is “You can trust us with absolute power, we’re the good guys and know what’s right.” Snowden is *systematically* destroying that plausibility by giving up evidence that the US spyboys are a) not ‘good guys,’ b) lie utterly in every utterance, c) can’t be trusted with a postage stamp, because d) they couldn’t find ‘what’s right’ to within a few parasecs using all of SETI’s resources and the Hubble’s chillun for back-up. Snowden has setout to prove that the US spy apparatus isn’t simply unconstitutional but is utterly untrustworthy.

          If I was guessing, which is all that I’m doing, I would say that Snowden’s move is “You can harm me, but I’m leaving you cut off at the knees before you even start.” It’s like the situation of the French Army in the Drefuss Affair: they were able to hound their critics into exile or prison, but their own credibility never recovered, they were demonstrated as despicably abusive liars who’d hurt anyone to cover up their own treachery and incompetence. And yes, the US power apparatus really is that bad. I mean, _most are_ so that’s no surprise, but we’ve a demonstrated record over the last twenty years of being everything we claim to despise and assail others for: torturers; murderers; conquerors; looters; trafficking in racism; propping up and even creating odious quislings abusing their won peoples; megalomanic spiers; hyper-paranoid ubermenschan; completely indifferent to law. treaty, or custom; ready to frame and jail domestic critics of any of that; so deep in the chamber pot of our own hypocrisy we’ve come to take the stuff for mustard on our foot-long untruths; frequently incompetent because under a vail of pervasive secrecy accountability goes to zero. “And you _TRUST_ these guys?” Ed Snowden is saying. His move isnt to play for sympathy, it’s to irreparably damage the credibility of the securecrats. And yes, he’s managed to do much to that effect _without_ revealing any military secrets. . . . I don’t know whether he’ll get out of Devil’s Island intact, but one has to acknowledge he has a strategy, and it’s a well-founded one.

          1. PunchNRun

            It seems to me that if the spies appear that inept then it must be at least in part their intention to look that way. Of course the general rule that successful bureaucracies are designed primarily to self-perpetuate and grow also applies.

          2. turtle soup

            I hope your comment is stored forever and ever throughout eternity on a computer server buried somewhere in the Utah desert. Until then, much of it is buried (with pleasure) in my memory. La chair est triste et j’ai lu tous les livres.

    2. sgt_doom

      When an American, Mr. Snowden, has to defend the US Constitution from a country like China (totalitarian capitalist state) is the ultimate indictment against all our corrupt political lackeys and Wall Street running dogs!

    3. ltr

      Fine post and comment. Glenn Greedwald and Edward Snowden have been quite heroic. The Guardian is to be highly commended, and in reading it I realize I have an alternative to the New York Times and writers such as Thomas Friedman (yuck).

    4. Anonymous

      I think you may be wrong about that. I think he may have been hired by someone to spy for China. I do know Glenn Greenwald the journalist that he gave docuuments to has ties with the Marksist Leninist Party (communist). I think he is trying to gain support here in America by appealing to everyone as a Patriot. At first I thought he was and now that I have done some research, I think he may be a part of a spy ring for China to get business information to them. This is just 1 example of what I am finding in my research.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Better trolls, please.

        Greenwald speaks with some regularity for the Cato Institute, which is libertarian and a business think tank funded by….gasp…the Koch Brothers! You can’t even connect dots coherently. “Someone in China! Must be commies in the woodpile!”

  2. Chris E.

    This is just bizarre. I don’t know what to think at this point about Snowden’s motives or game plan, but I don’t care much at all for these latest revelations.

    First, China already knows that we’re hacking them. It’s one thing for him to look out for the American public interest by confirming what the “elites” had already known about the surveillance state. It’s just strange that he would perform a similar act for the Chinese people. Because the Chinese govt knows for sure that we hack them, so the act by Snowden is clearly directed more at the people.

    He’s starting to come off as a man without a country, an anarchist even.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The reason this might be germane is the US has been repeatedly hectoring China about hacking. The Chinese have not engaged in counter-accusations which is interesting if they did in fact “know” as you claim. The Chinese are big on going toe to toe with the US in trading public charges, so their failure to make counter-charges would be surprising.

      So why would they pretend NOT to know, given the above? Are the Chinese attacks so much more aggressive that we could still claim some sort of moral high ground? That’s hard to fathom. Was China playing dumb so as to better watch what the US was doing, and maybe feed them a lot of bad data?

      1. Richard Kline

        I have been _highly_ suspicious of US claims over that last six months that “The heathen Chinee are hacking us, _hacking_ us I say!” There was little evidence given outside of our spy guys vouching for it, and their word is worse than worseless: they wouldn’t tell themselves the truth in their sleep, and it’s in their interest and professional calling to lie to the public through their teeth. Standing up and making such claims is stupid from the counter-intelligence perspective also; far better to shup up and map what and how the Chinese are going after if in fact their were hacks.

        Accordingly, it’s been my view that the US has been simply lying about most of these putative ‘intellihack’ attempts recently. Why? The US has very little direct leverage on China. The Chinese leadership is completely insulated from US direct influence; the Chinese public doesn’t trust the US and has gotten no real aid there ever. The US needs China’s economic involvment and production at this point, the situation’s so unbalanced it’s like when Imperial Spain had to keep trading with the Dutch in order to afford to make war on them (a further reason why American policy toward China is just moldy-warped nuts). So attempting to influence public opinion to the effect that ‘those Chinee can’t be trusted’ seems to me to be the approach.

        And I’ll say this for the Chinese: they know how to keep their cards close and their mouths shut when it comes to realpolitick at the apex. Yes, the Chinese go toe to toe in public pronouncements, but keep in mind much of that is to shape _Chinese domestic opinion_. The most difficult thing for the Chinese in dealing with America, as I see it, has been getting the US to honestly and substantively negotiate with them on equal terms at the top of the power hierarchy. Just like with Iran, the US has been all about dictating terms, but offered very little with regard to actual negotiations where something is given in return. That could speak to American arrogance; it could speak to the weakness of America’s negotiating position. Probably, it speaks to both. Coming in to the recent heads of state meet up, the Chinese had a much better than normal opportunity to have their say and hear what might come back, so I could see them holding their cards until they see what the other guy opens with.

        I have no opinion on how any of that impacts Snowden’s Explosion. In fact, I don’t see them connected at the root at all. Snowden’s an anarchist in the best sense, and his gambit is his own. Mordecai Vanunu did the right thing too, and he’s currently rotting in solitary and has been for a long time; another friend to humanity too many of whom wouldd rather watch fake-reality telefission . . . .

        1. jurisV

          Just as a pedantic addition to your outstanding post.

          Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison and solitary in 2004. However, he is still under restrictions and has been arrested several times and jailed for months on end. The scorning of whistleblowers by authoritarian governments never ends.

          1. Richard Kline

            So jurisV, it’s not pedantic, and you’re correct. Vanunu has been re-arrested so many times I’ve lost track of just where he was at the present. Nominally, he’s ‘released’ but effectively he’s still imprisoned; the cell is bigger but the restrictions remain the same.

      2. Chris E.

        A couple months ago the “private” security company Mandiant came out saying there was that specific building in China responsible for hacks, and China responded with allegations:,2817,2416056,00.asp

        But you’re right, this time around China is not trading accusations but instead taking a moral highground and the latest report shows they are accusing us of “double standards” ( ).

        It could be that in the specific case of Snowden’s revelations that China did _not_ know. And that they really only really knows that foreign IP’s are penetrating their servers.

        I suppose I just find it hard to believe that the Chinese could have such sophisticated hackers breaking into our government and banking systems, but they can’t use those same resources to monitor Chinese servers and alert the Communist Party to American attempts at hacking. So I’m leaning toward China playing dumb.

        Given this, it’s really ugly to have an American come out in such a high profile way and confirm on the record the hackings by the US against China (while not an enemy, still a healthy trade “adversary”)

        And as you suggest it might be a game theory strategy that China is engaging in to control the public perception. The United States’ image and credibility has been significantly damaged since 9/11 and we’ve lost the moral authority in a lot of key global issues, and it creates sort of a void in global leadership in a sense, which China may be seeking to slowly fill?

        PR strategies aside, I don’t see any reason why Snowden would be giving such fodder to the Chinese…it just makes no sense as part of his own personal game plan. Maybe this will all turn out to be part of an amazing well-planned scheme, or maybe he’ll end up “disappeared” and it will all backfire.

        1. nobody

          “…it’s really ugly to have an American come out in such a high profile way and confirm on the record the hackings by the US against China (while not an enemy, still a healthy trade ‘adversary’)…”

          Note the bit about how “[t]he information only pertains to attacks on civilian computers with no reference to Chinese military operations,” to “unauthorised access to civilian machines.”

          There’s a significant difference between how he describes what he’s revealed and “hackings by the US against China.”

        2. Richard Kline

          No Chris E., I don’t get it; tell me again: Why is it that China is an adversary? I mean other than that the Americans perennially need an adversary to putatively justify their own theft and agression.

          Really: Why is China a designated adversary? Did somebody just tell you that and you believed them, or did you come to that assertion by a process of reasoned evaluation?

          1. Chris E.

            A reasoned evaluation of course. Adversary has a far different connotation than enemy. I find “adversary” to be a rather healthy, competitive, and friendly term in general. China is a rising star in global economics and of course they’re going to be a trade adversary going into the future.

            Are we not competing with China to gut Africa of its natural resources? Explain to me, Richard, how China is NOT an adversary?

            We compete with them for resources, we compete for trade, we compete for global power — China is hardly an enemy, but of course the 2nd largest economy set to pass our economy in a few years is indeed an adversary.

            Allies can be adversaries and you’re blind to geopolitical goings-on if you consider China anything but an adversary.

            So what term would you prefer, Richard? If I’ve rejected the term enemy and instead chosen “adversary” — which is not mutually exclusive from “ally” — then to what is it that you object?

          2. Yalt

            Why are the Red Sox adversaries of the Yankees?

            There are people for whom membership in a team is the very ground of their existence. Your question is nonsensical from that perspective, one that could only be asked by a man without a country. An anarchist, even.

          3. sgt_doom

            Chris E. (in response to your interrogative) claims China is a “competitor” — how very odd, then why oh why does Corporate Amerika (those pesky banksters) offshore all the jobs, all the technology and all the investment to China?

          4. Richard Kline

            To begin with, Chris E., no neutral individual with access to a dictionary would defines adversary as a ‘friendly term;’ it is inherently a hostile usage. It’s your choice of words, and clearly you don’t want to acknowledge the implication, that the usage is designed to signal the designee as hostile, with the implications for ‘just and necessary response’ appropriate to a hostile entity. One doesn’t ‘live with’ an adversary; one doesn’t ‘co-exist’ with an adversary;’ one shuns and adversary and encourages others to to likewise. Adversary isn’t simply a synonym for ‘competitor.’ I don’t think you are blind to the meaning of _your_ word choice.

            And there are further implications in your reply that you see the world as a zero-sum, where it’s ‘us or them.’ And it is these implications which I find meretricious. Here’s something for you to think about: Africa doesn’t belong to _either of us_. If either party is working to ‘gut states there’ that party is the adversary _of us ALL_. You chose to cast the world into a realm of ‘us and them’ with the implication that ‘we SHOULD win.’ No reason is given for that; the implication is left there as if it’s self-evident. . . . But it isn’t. If the USA or China wants to carve up the world into personal hegemonies _both states are the enemies of peace and mutuality_ which anyone should oppose. The world and its people aren’t a ‘resource zone’ from which the temporarily powerful should be allowed to enrich themselves and the Devil for the rest—but this is the worldview you endorse by your usage. I reject that. And btw China is giving a much better deal to those in Africa with whom it negotiates than is the US. I’m not blind to the flaws, self-interest, and costs of China’s involvement there—or anywhere—but if there is a functional competition, they’re winning it and they should. Maybe we might ‘learn’ from our competitor, but I’m not holding my breath, our cultural arrogance exceeds even theirs by a wide margin.

            Your usage, adversary, excludes any symbiosis, mutuality, alliance, or division on either functional or friendly terms. In fact, the US and China are presently closely enmeshed in a symbiosis which has benefits to both—though more to the Chinese since they’ve been far more insightful regarding the terms.

            There can be functional competitions: one lump of coal wrested from the soil can only be burned a single time (not including afterburn engineering), so the joules yielded are going into one grid only. But here’s something else, Chris: China is too big a competitor for the US to smother or defeat in the instances where there _are_ functional competitions. Your usage and worldview locks us into an unwinnable competition, which will soak up more resources than are gained. Co-existence, whether friendly, unfriendly, or adversarial, is a far better use of time and resource. Yes, that may mean that _we_ need to live smaller and smarter than we have for a couple of generations. I don’t think so, because alternative resource usage is entirely possible, and we’re historically very clever folks in this country at getting at a new way of doing things. YOU predicated a world of endless tooth-and-nail with China or whomever—and that’s madness, especially in a world of shrinking resources. If the US should try that, frankly the World should turn against us in mass as an entity which they can’t afford. Judging by historical parallels, they world will, and our outcome after the endgame is worse than co-existence on shrewdly reasoned terms.

            Fools want to do China, and such fools need to be pointed out and ignored. we don’t have to like them to realize the situation, but too many here think our swinging sticks are big enough for this one. And THAT is the biggest problem of all, not anything in China’s behavior, however competitive that behavior may be.

        3. Thor's Hammer

          Why is China the adversary/enemy of US ruling class interests?

          China is forming alliances, engaging in non-dollar denominated energy trade arrangements, and actively working to replace the US dollar as the world reserve currency. When the US loses its reserve currency status that will signal the end of its reign as the world’s only great power.

          The US has built a transportation and housing infrastructure that cannot function without massive energy imports, and those inflows can always be obtained as long as trade is denominated in dollars and all that is needed to obtain dollars is for the Fed to enter a few keystrokes on a computer.

          Th USA is dependent upon its ability to print dollars to sustain its worldwide imperial military system. By controlling the reserve currency those costs can be exported to the rest of the world rather than falling exclusively upon the US. The trillion dollar per year military-industrial complex is a dominant political and economic force within the country, and cannot be severed from the body politic without the patient dying.

          1. from Mexico

            Thor’s Hammer says:

            The trillion dollar per year military-industrial complex is a dominant political and economic force within the country, and cannot be severed from the body politic without the patient dying.

            Phew! How does one argue with “logic” like that?

            I think the transnational corporations’ near monopoloy on poliatical power in the United States is the only “body politic” that would be in danger of dying.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Fracking and Bakken change the energy dependence picture completely. But we still have a bad case of overreach and we are dependent (at least now) on China for too many strategic goods, ranging from rare earths to ascorbic acid.

          3. Thor's Hammer


            “Fracking and Bakken change the energy dependence picture completely.”

            Be careful about how much of the fracking Kool Aid you drink. At least take into consideration depletion rates and actual flow rates of fracked wells before concluding that we are now free to ride the fossil fuel train straight to an ice free future.

            In reality the annual production of oil from fracked wells in the Bakken is probably not far from its peak, considering that the sectors with the highest promise are always drilled first, economically justifiable deposits are unevenly distributed, flow rates from individual wells are miniscule in comparison to historical Saudi and Texas new wells, and production from successful wells drops off so rapidly that new wells have to be continually drilled at an exponentially increasing rate just to maintain overall production rates.

            Natural gas is not equivalent or directly interchangeable with oil. Although it is much more available in the continental US, it shares the same production flow profile when produced from fracked shale.

          4. theyenguy

            Thor’s Hammer you write correctly that “China is forming alliances, engaging in non-dollar denominated energy trade arrangements, and actively working to replace the US dollar as the world reserve currency”. And write correctly “When the US loses its reserve currency status that will signal the end of its reign as the world’s only great power. The USA is dependent upon its ability to print dollars to sustain its worldwide imperial military system.”

            I comment that as the Bretton Woods System, also termed the Milton Friedman Free To Choose floating currency system, really gives way, that the US Dollar Hegemonic Empire, will collapse, and The Ten Toed Kingdom of Regional Governance, will emerge, where ten regional zones of increasing iron diktat will emerge out of today’s clay democracy, as foretold in bible prophecy of Daniel 2:25-45.

        4. AnyDay

          To go with the simplest explanation, I suspect Snowden is just playing the cards he has, i.e., wouldn’t the Hawaii office be part of Booz Allen’s Asian spying group? Maybe Hong Kong was among the countries Snowden was employed to track, and the one he felt most comfortable defecting to (English speaking and all).

        5. sgt_doom

          Mandiant? You mean that flakey company which has a member of JPMorgan Chase’s private equity firm sitting on its board of directors?

      3. optimader

        Chinese being demure about US hacking is logical. The Chinese have unilateral economic incentives for mutual “hacking” programs. The Party’s “great leap forward” economic benefits (sweeping technology/R&D) subsidizes the inevitably required malware countermeasure development. Revealing their awareness of hacking by providing evidence unnecessarily reveals information about their efficacy identifying it.

        The US in contrast ultimately has questionable return on the investment in hacking ( for the purpose of embedding malware), unless there is ultimately a logical incentive to damage a mercantile partner that we have inextricably intertwined our economic fate?

        Developing and deploying malware with destructive payloads is the new and improved military feedtrough for the 21st century that recognizes the escalating and unsustainable cost of the conventional military paradigm. What isn’t necessarily new is it’s ultimate impracticality. Everyone destroys each others infrastructure w/ virtual timebombs! Whats not to love about the small carbon footprint of that? Well small at least until the fireworks begin.

      4. Yan

        Snowden disclosed NSA spying in China just before Obama was meeting Xi Jinping in California. Would have loved to watch the exchange between Xi and Obama…

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Xi: So you know everything I did in the past 50 years? OK, whatever you want. I will sign!

    2. from Mexico

      Chris E. says:

      This is just bizarre. I don’t know what to think at this point about Snowden’s motives or game plan, but I don’t care much at all for these latest revelations.

      It’s amazing to me how all of a sudden, Snowden’s motives are so all-fired important, and yet at Bradley Manning’s show trial, the defense has been barred from even talking about Manning’s motives. As Chris Heges explains:

      The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened.

      Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.

      The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience.

      For those who speak Spanish, Julian Assange makes the same point in this interview, but with a lot more detail. Assange says (my translation):

      The court forbid the defense from arguing about the intentionality; that is, it can’t present witnesses or proofs that have to do with the intentions, nor prove that the intention of the accused wasn’t to harm the United States, the military or the government, but offer to the people information about war crimes and their context.

      1. Chris E.

        from Mexico,

        As Yves pointed out before, perception is key in this issue (having the public on his side is a major advantage when/if the deep state goes after him). He has significantly altered the perception of his actions by going to the Chinese and giving the communist party direct evidence substantiating specific hacking attempts by the US against CN. This is far different than him _only_ reaching out to the American people and revealing programs to us, which is clearly in our public interest.

        As a practical matter it doesn’t concern me as much that Snowden’s motives may be appearing different than assumed prior. And in terms of Manning I find the motive to be very relevant due to the serious nature of the charges he faces. It’s something that should always be considered in crimes and the secret trial of Manning is a disgrace so you won’t see me defend the “boundaries” that have been set up by the military tribunal there.

        1. from Mexico

          Chris E. says:

          He [Snowden] has significantly altered the perception of his actions by going to the Chinese and giving the communist party direct evidence substantiating specific hacking attempts by the US against CN.

          In perception management, it would help if you didn’t just uncritically parrot the talking points of the Snowden/Manning lynch mob.

          Your statement is empirically untrue, and your argument is the exact same argument that is being used by the prosecution against Bradely Manning in its Aiding the Enemy charge.

          To begin with, Snowden did not “give the communist party direct evidence.” What he did was to show the evidence to the media, in this case the South China Morning Post, which is owned by SCMP Group:

          In November 1971, it [SCMP Group] was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It was privatised by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 1987, and relisted in 1990. In October 1993, Robert Kuok’s Kerry Group acquired a 34.9% stake in the SCMP Group from Murdoch’s News Corporation.

          Snowden simply put the information into the public domain.

          Next, when you say “This is far different than him _only_ reaching out to the American people and revealing programs to us, which is clearly in our public interest,”
          you invoke the same perverse, twisted logic that the Manning/Snowden lynch mob does. If Snowden would have released the information to Fox News or the NY Times, then there would be no foul? As the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson put it in a blog post, “Can anyone aid the enemy by giving information to a reporter? Are reporters aiding the enemy if they publish it—and who, by the way, is “the enemy”?

          1. Chris E.

            from Mexico,

            I’m not being coy when I say that the release of that information (evidence substantiating the attacks by US against CN) to the public domain is a de facto gift to the Chinese Communist Party.

            And by extension, I’m not using the tactics of the anti-Snowden/Manning lynch mob. Because in my view, it doesn’t matter WHO publishes the information given, but who the intended recipient that would most from that information is. So, as an example: China (both public and govt) benefits enormously from the leak that confirms we are hacking the Chinese. The American public does not gain that much from that information. The Chinese public, and more importantly, the Chinese communist party, are thus the real “recipients” or “beneficiaries” of the leak. And that’s where I feel he’s altered the perception of himself by doing this interview.

            To me, it doesn’t matter if SCMP, Wikileaks, Fox News, or the Guardian publishes the information (be it the NSA leak or the US-CN hack leak) — the intended beneficiary of that information is what I’m referring to as being the relevant determinant of perception.

            And I simply don’t see the interest to the American public of this leak from Snowden to SCMP. It’s purely a gift to the Chinese, regardless of who he would have leaked that info to (but optics-wise it is bad to give to SCMP even if it is a priv company in HK).

          2. optimader

            ..The Chinese public, and more importantly, the Chinese communist party, are thus the real “recipients” or “beneficiaries” of the leak…

            The Chinese public derives zero benefit, the Chinese govt derives little real benefit other than some marginal confirming information about what they already know, more importantly some inoculation of criticism for there own initiatives which they would have soldiered on with anyway. Too much low hanging fruit to ignore..

            The US gov/commercial entities/public loose big trust perception and goodwill benefits.

            It’s not necessarily a zero sum game.

          3. from Mexico

            • Chris E. says:

            I’m not being coy when I say that the release of that information (evidence substantiating the attacks by US against CN) to the public domain is a de facto gift to the Chinese Communist Party.

            But hey, isn’t the argument of the enemies of democracy that stripping privacy rights doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide? So if the United States government were not engaged in criminal activity, then it would have nothing to hide, no? So using their own logic, there’s no foul. What’s good for the goose (the public) is good for the gander (the government).

            But constitutionally, what the government is doing is far worse than that, because the consitution does create a double standard. But it is the exact opposite of what the enemies of democracy would have us believe. It is, after all, individuals who have privacy rights, and not the government. In fact, there is a constitutional imperative that the government does not have privacy rights, and the people do have a consitutional right to know what their government is doing, as is explained here:

            “The consitutional right to know”

            • Chris E. says:

            And by extension, I’m not using the tactics of the anti-Snowden/Manning lynch mob.

            Look at the evidence. I think it says otherwise.

            • Chris E. says:

            Beause in my view, it doesn’t matter WHO publishes the information given, but who the intended recipient that would most from that information is. So, as an example: China (both public and govt) benefits enormously from the leak that confirms we are hacking the Chinese. The American public does not gain that much from that information. The Chinese public, and more importantly, the Chinese communist party, are thus the real “recipients” or “beneficiaries” of the leak. And that’s where I feel he’s altered the perception of himself by doing this interview.

            To me, it doesn’t matter if SCMP, Wikileaks, Fox News, or the Guardian publishes the information (be it the NSA leak or the US-CN hack leak) — the intended beneficiary of that information is what I’m referring to as being the relevant determinant of perception.

            None of what you have say here is relevant to anyone but the spin doctors, because if the United States government were not engaged in criminal activity, it would have nothing to worry about.

            • Chris E. says:

            And I simply don’t see the interest to the American public of this leak from Snowden to SCMP. It’s purely a gift to the Chinese, regardless of who he would have leaked that info to (but optics-wise it is bad to give to SCMP even if it is a priv company in HK).

            You don’t believe it’s in the interest of the American public to know that it’s government is breaking the law in its name?

          4. Chris E.

            from Mexico,

            I suppose we’ll see how the public reacts. I have a feeling they will collectively show in the polls less sympathy for him because he leaked the US-China hack stuff. It’s perception management, that’s all I’m saying. I think this is minor enough what Snowden is revealing to China that it doesn’t deter me from supporting him in his NSA leaks. Just like even though it was a rather gratuitous dumping of documents by Manning I still support him in the leaks and find invaluable his contribution to our understanding of the Iraq War and a lot of how the MIC operates in the modern day.

        2. from Mexico

          And of course the professional liars — Barak Obama, Mike Rogers, Donald Trump, John Bolton, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Peter King, Bill Nelson, and Saxby Chambliss — are all in favor of exploring motive and intent in the press, where it’s all about hearsay and speculation and where they believe they have the biggest soap box.

          But in a courtroom, where there are rules of evidence and people have to testify under oath, then exploring motive and intent suddenly becomes taboo.

          The hypocrisy is so egregious and in-your-face that it is stutifying to anyone who isn’t a psychopath, sociopath or some other form of charachteropath.

      2. Jim Haygood

        ‘The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial.’

        Such prohibitions on raising an effective defense apply to civilians, too.

        Before the federal courts were converted into a conviction machine in the 1980s, a competent defense attorney could present any theory of defense, even if got laughed out of court.

        Conversion of criminal courts into what Justice Anthony Kennedy called ‘a system of plea bargains rather than trials’ changed all that. Many federal criminal statutes prescribe allowable defenses. If the limited menu of defenses doesn’t apply, the defendant is obliged to simply remain silent while the prosecutor heaps up poisonous allegations against him.

        A classic example was the federal show trial of Ed Rosenthal, who was licensed by the City of Oakland to grow medical marijuana:

        Defense lawyers made repeated attempts to inform jurors during the trial that Rosenthal was a medical cannabis grower who had been promised immunity from prosecution. But U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer blocked every effort, ruling that federal law considers all marijuana use and cultivation a criminal offense. When former Oakland city council member Nate Miley testified that he met Rosenthal, “in the context of Prop. 215,” the judge instructed the jury to ignore the comment, and took over the questioning of Miley himself.

        “I wondered why the defense portion of your case was so brief as to almost be non-existent?” asked Charles Sackett, a landscape contractor. He said the court was unfair to Rosenthal and to the citizens of California and eight other states where state and federal medical marijuana laws conflict. “We as a jury was unaware that your counsel was being denied the opportunity to present most of your evidence and outside testimony.”

        Eight of the 14 sitting jurors condemned the verdict. This included one of the two alternate jurors who did not vote, and two jurors who were not present. At the courthouse press conference, jurors and city officials offered their condemnation and apologies. “It is the most horrible mistake I have ever made,” said juror Marney Craig, a 58-year-old property manager who voted to convict. “I feel like we were sheep, we were manipulated.”

        That was ten years ago. What’s changed? Bloody nothing.

        Turns out that when the testimony that jurors can hear is edited to favor the prosecution, the result is 95%-plus conviction rates. Welcome to the Gulag.

        1. from Mexico

          I agree completley, Jim.

          When I tell Americans that in some ways, but certainly not all, the Mexican criminal justice system is superior to that of the United States, their eyes just glaze over in a seizure of American exceptionalism.

          The US criminal justice system is an abomination.

      3. sgt_doom

        What really bothers me was that attendee list at the latest international bankster forum (the Bilderberg meeting): Carl Bildt (who is the primary mover in trying to extradite WikiLeaks’ Assange to Sweden), people from Panitir and Stratefor (the two outfits which targeted WikiLeaks, then were hacked by Anonymous), and Lawrence Lessig (the fellow who waiting to advise Aaron Swartz of the federal prosecutors’ newest offer until Aaron had committed suicide).

    3. from Mexico

      It’s also important to keep in mind that Mike Rogers, chair of the House intelligence committee, is hardly an unbiased source. He is not playing the role of truth-seeker here, but prosecutor. From the first rattle out of the box, Rogers could be found at the head of the lynch mob:

      “These programs are within the law,” Feinstein, D-California, told ABC’s “This Week.” And Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC, “The inflammatory nature of the comments does not fit with what Dianne and I know this program really does.”

      On the other side, Feinstein joined Republicans such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Rep. Mike Rogers in defending the surveillance programs.

      Rogers’ role is thus not to disinterestedly collect evidence. It is to look for evidence that confirms his predetermined conclusion, and to downplay or discredit evidence that does not. The next step in Rogers’ strategy is to take the cherry-picked evidence and subject it to some twisted and tortuous “logic” so that reality becomes completely distorted.

      Since the material evidence that Snowden is producing seems pretty unimpeachable, and completely damning to Rogers’ cause, then Rogers’ must distract attention from the material evidence. He must attempt to make the debate all about Snowden — his motives, his personality, his character, his integrity, his loyalties — so as to draw the focus away from the actual material documents being released.

      Of course this orgy of speculation into Snowden’s conscience and inner forum has nothing whatsoever to do with the veracity or authenticity of the documents he released, or the creeping police state they reveal. Snowden could be a convicted child rapist or his motives and intentions all wrong. But what difference does it make? What is important is the content of the documents he released and what they reveal. Nevertheless, every word uttered by Snowden as well as his entire life history will be trotted out, parsed and discussed ad nauseam, with the most outrageous an unsubstantiated speculations (Let your imagination run wild!) into the mind of this “strange” man, the objective being to make the debate about Snowden and not the documents he released. Rogers’ objective: Trial by soap opera.

      Russell Brand cuts right through Rogers’ bullshit strategy like a hot knife through butter in this interview:

      The MSM has joined the drumbeat now, and it’s full court press to make it all about Snowden’s personality, intentions and feelings and not about the content and import of the documents he released. Take this CNN story, from this morning, for instance, where the author tries to conflate Snowden’s intentions with those of Christopher Boyce:

      “Convicted U.S. spy Christopher Boyce: ‘Snowden is doomed’ ”

      Here’s another one from CNN this morning, with the title being self-explanatory:

      “Inside the mind of Edward Snowden”

      And yet another, featuring someone with even less credibility than Obama, Saxby, Rogers, Feinstein, and Bolton:

      “Trump: Snowden is bad news”

    4. from Mexico

      Looking at these professional liars and propagandists — Barak Obama, Donald Trump, John Bolton, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Peter King, Bill Nelson, and Saxby Chambliss — and their preposterous and completely speculative claims to somehow know, as if by magic, the consciences and inner workings of the minds of Snowden and Manning, one cannot help but be reminded of similar strategies that George Bush and his propagandists used to demonize entire peoples:

      The major influences on George W. Bush’s Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, experts on the Arab and Islamic world who helped the American hawks think about such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind… Today, bookstores in the United States are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat, and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted to them and others by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange Oriental peoples over there…
      Combative and woefully ignorant policy experts, whose world experience is limited to the Beltway, grind out books on “terrorism” and liberalism, or about Islamic fundamentalism and American foreign policy, or about the end of history, all of it vying for attention and influence quite without regard for truthfulness or reflection or real knowledge. What matters is how efficient and resourceful it sounds, and who might go for it, as it were. The worst aspect of this essentializing stuff is that human suffering in all its density and pain is spirited away. Memory and with it the historical past are effaced as in the common, dismissively contemptuous American phrase, “you’re history.”

      –EDWARD W. SAID, Orientalism

    5. Massinissa

      Sure, China knew. Of course they did. But they would never be able to prove it to anyone else.

      With these documents, the United States illegal maneuvers are now provable to other countries. And, for that matter, Americans with half a brain.

      Before this, China had no proof. If they said anything about it, most of the world would have regarded them the country version of paranoid tinfoil hats.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You are missing a CRITICAL point, and thus become (I hope unwittingly) a US security state propagandist.

        Snowden did NOT hand over documents. He let the SCMP see them. Huge difference.

        Plus even the SCMP says they can’t be sure what they saw is what Snowden says it is. He could just be creative with data arrays. Now I am pretty sure it is the real deal, but you are going way beyond what has been reported.

        1. H. Alexander Ivey

          Humm, following this is getting complicated. What is a person suppose to do when he detects immoral action?
          A model of the actors involved, their wants, needs, and desires, and their possible actions and reactions is needed.
          I mean, I could just say Snowden was showing just how bad (immoral) the NSA has become by showing their spying on China. But I agree that may be naive.

    1. dSquib

      Haha, small wonder. And why wouldn’t attorneys and other agencies start asking for their share of the treasure trove, to deal with the far more pressing problems facing America?

      1. Joe Rebholz

        And wouldn’t all our local police love to have such phone records. If this database of all phone call metadata records continues to exist, some day all law enforcement entities will have access.

    1. optimader

      Can we presume he has evidence that we have deployed malware throughout, say….. our NATO partners? Nah, we wouldnt do that

  3. Aussie F

    I think I’ve discovered the polticiolegal roots of the NSA:

    From German historian, Ingo Müller in Hitler’s Justice: The Court of the Third Reich, the Nazi Supreme Court “defined the ‘legal nature’ of the civil service as ‘loyalty, obedience, and conscientious performance of duty’ and had referred to civil servants as ‘the political troops of the Führer in the area of administration.’

    Actually, the Nazi approach is slighlty too liberal for the Obama administration. After all, they forget to stick the adjective ‘unquestioning’ before obedience.

    1. peace


      Loyalty is a central issue here. Citizens choose between a narrow unquestioning loyalty to “the U.S.” and it’s vocal Representatives or a more broad-scoped loyalty to the rule of law which requires civic engagement, judgment and responsibility.

  4. Stan

    It does seem bizarre for Snowden to disclose to the SCMP that the US intelligence agencies are hacking computers in Hong Kong and in China.

    In any event, yours truly will be attending a rally tomorrow here in Hong Kong in support of Edward Snowden. We will be marching from a park in the central business district to the US Consulate just up the road. A number of local pro-democracy legislators will attend the rally as well.

    1. from Mexico

      My friends here in Mexico who are politically aware are also fired up about the information Snowden released. Yesterday one of them sent me this petition with a request to sign:

      Then there are articles in the local dailies such as this one:

      EU/Israel espían a los ciudadanos del mundo con su “Prisma”: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft

      US/Israel spy on the citizens of the world with “Prism”: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft

      So it seems not only the US security state, but also the stateless transnationals that work hand-in-glove with the US security state and are its sole beneficiaries, may also come out of this with a black eye.

      1. optimader

        I have contended there will be an unintended consequence blowback directed at US branded commercial providers of supposedly secure software/internet/communication products —where their are practical alternative providers.

        1. optimader

          A trip down the memory hole
          U.S. enables Chinese hacking of Google
          By Bruce Schneier, Special to CNN
          January 23, 2010 5:20 p.m. EST

          Editor’s note: Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and author of “Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.” Read more of his writing at
          (CNN) — Google made headlines when it went public with the fact that Chinese hackers had penetrated some of its services, such as Gmail, in a politically motivated attempt at intelligence gathering. The news here isn’t that Chinese hackers engage in these activities or that their attempts are technically sophisticated — we knew that already — it’s that the U.S. government inadvertently aided the hackers.
          In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access.
          Google’s system isn’t unique. Democratic governments around the world — in Sweden, Canada and the UK, for example — are rushing to pass laws giving their police new powers of Internet surveillance, in many cases requiring communications system providers to redesign products and services they sell….

          1. Zephyrum

            Only it wasn’t inadvertent. They needed to catch China red-handed at activities they previously suspected but could not prove. Mission accomplished.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          The blowback is going to be huge. Americans abroad won’t be able to pretend the behavior of the U.S. is the fault of those dastardly red states, and people will begin to recognize Americans employed by embassies and NGOs are all part of the imperial structure. American-affiliated companies will find they aren’t welcome on store shelves, and governments will find pressure to not buy jets and arms from the U.S. increases 10 fold. Its going to be fun.

          The pictures of “made in the USA” on the instruments of torture and terror used by governments will spread. Yep, I wonder if Obama will be arrogant enough to attempt a Cairo 2.0 speech. They had to move inside for the DNC convention because he can’t attract the crowds domestically anymore.

          1. optimader

            If you recall, Iran ironically has the last fleet of pristine low hour F-14 Tomcats that were sold to the Shah. MacD techs flipped the primitive by todays standards “killswitches” on the electronic suites when they were packing up their lunchboxes before leaving the airbase(s).

          2. optimader

            Not unlikely from an external view, the mask is off the illusion of an alleged tension between philosophically noble and devious forces competing in the US. Unfortunately We are reinforcing a perception of the US being the slightly simpleminded and untruthful giant with the box of hand grenades.

          3. NotTimothyGeithner

            During the Bush years, I became convinced much of the anti-American sentiment didn’t result in action because of the promise the Democrats would win and grown ups would return, partially because non-Americans largely only encounter fairly well educated and urbane Americans. The Obots have demonstrated those differences were superficial, and the promise of grownups returning no longer exists.

            Labour lost in the UK largely because of its connection to Tony Blair and his support of U.S. empire. Between Libya and the current negotiations over Syria, the U.S. has demonstrated that the U.S. is incapable of a basic trust.

          4. jrs

            I do think our hope lies in the rest of the world. Maybe they will boycott U.S. products (or at least the big tech stuff). Maybe they will stop seeing the U.S. as a moral example of anything. And generally cooperate as little as possible with the U.S., because the U.S. is a rogue state bend on destruction of the world (at least the natural environment). The hope certainly doesn’t lie in dumb Americans who don’t seem to mind this all too much (though I wish it it did and I wished there was riots in the street).

  5. nobody

    “Snowden’s leaks look like a desperate gambit to increase friction between the US and China to prevent that… going public and then trying to curry favor with the Chinese government…”

    Maybe he’s a lot more interested in affecting the public in Hong Kong, as opposed to the Chinese government — hoping to become sufficiently a local cause célèbre that pressure will be brought to bear on local authorities not to extradite. And he is stressing that “[t]he information only pertains to attacks on civilian computers with no reference to Chinese military operations.” He’s explicitly saying that his “intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide [his] fate,” and he has said that Hong Kong has a long tradition of protesting in the streets.”:

    I’ve already seen a supportive post from a FB friend who’s a Hong Kong local.

  6. nobody

    About how he’s supposedly “starting to come off as a man without a country,” I think it might be worth connecting that comment to some of the features of the political shape of the world we all share as of 2013. I for one find the case fairly compelling that there’s an ongoing transformation from the nation state to the market state. As this shift happens, there seems to be a shift in the identities and allegiances of the transnational oligarchs that call the shots or are players to a serious degree. They seem to see themselves, less and less, as people of a specific country. Many of them have houses in several countries and multiple passports. Their interests and capital are widely distributed. They operate globally, and increasingly have more in common with each other across various national boundaries than they do with their inferiors/subjects/livestock in the countries they are from. Meanwhile, the greatest concentration of muscle for this transnational class of oligarchs now openly regards the entire planet as a battlefield.

    It seems to me that getting ourselves out of our national silos is precisely part of what we need to be doing. Otherwise, we put ourselves at a serious disadvantage vis-à-vis those who are waging full spectrum dominance against us, looting the commons and installing a global panopticon. I’ve taken a few liberties, but here are some useful-seeming portions of some comments from the “4 Plagues” piece from a little bit ago:

    “[C]hanging the United States won’t do the job… [T]he protesters in Turkey must join with the remnants of Occupy, the fury of Chinese workers must connect with that in Bangladesh, the minimum wage earners in Detroit must communicate with those in Mexico. That will be the hard thing: getting all to see that [everyone is] in this together.”

    “What we have to do is to share resources and coordinate actions: it can be done.”

    “Indeed, the phenomenon is not limited to the US. What we are seeing world wide is a supplanting of the power of people’s governments by the private power of corporate globalism. Few seem to recognize that governments are becoming irrelevant, except to the extent that they, in a subordinate position, exist as tools (or partners) to facilitate the will of the oligarchy. Global corporatization is even creating its own system of laws and enforcement mechanisms, as exemplified by NAFTA, WTO, and the upcoming Trans Pacific Partnership being secretly negotiated as we speak. They are even beyond reach of the courts.

    “What hope, when all this is taking place with the vast majority of people being unaware of it? Is all that is left the faith that such a system will collapse from the weight of its own decadence? What would the chaos that would follow look like?”

      1. Chris E.

        You have an interesting point. The oligarchs don’t care about the nation-state or sovereignty of individual countries. And when facing such an opponent one has to absorb the same mindset.

        However, I am partial to the nation-state and frankly do not like the idea of workers of the world uniting. I care about the American worker, and those who are on par with our culture and lifestyles (Europeans). I care not about the plight of a Bangladeshi worker who wishes me dead because of my blasphemous lifestyle ( ).

        So I don’t see Snowden as fighting the oligarchs and power players on the same terms as they dominate us. I think he’s exhibiting signs of anarchy rather than the Libertarian vibes he was giving off with the support of Ron Paul and his statements in the Greenwald interview.

        There’s still so much about China that we simply don’t know—the inner workings of their secret Communist Party rule is mysterious in their end-goals and long-run strategy.

        As a side note: when reading your comment I had a number of examples pop into my head to substantiate your point — Denise Rich (Marc Rich’s wife) who dropped her US citizenship, as well as Eduardo Saverin, who used an American education to build connections and skillset to help start Facebook and then renounced his citizenship for tax purposes and left to Singapore.

        It’s truly a strange beast that we’re up against but I still feel strongly that national unity is key for focusing on our interests. The risk of a sigma convergence destroying the American middle class even more if we embrace the market state for the _workers_ is too high, in my opinion.

        1. Jim Haygood

          There’s still so much about America that we simply don’t know—the inner workings of their secret national security rule are mysterious in their end-goals and long-run strategy.

          Fixed it for ya …

          1. Dikaios Logos

            @Jim Haygood

            DING! DING! DING! We have a winner, or at least a thinker!

            Yeah, this is the area that really needs to be more reporting. And unfortunately almost no one has even considered that this is where the real action is.

            Some points to mull:

            1. BAH isn’t ‘owned’ by The Carlyle Group. It is MANAGED by them via Carlyle V U.S. LP. The SEC documents list Rubenstein, Conway, and D’aniello as disclaiming beneficial ownership. Instead, the majority owner isn’t even a Carlyle Fund, it is Explorer Coinvest LLC. I have no idea if there is any investment from Carlyle V U.S. LP, but there are clearly investors in on the deal level at BAH.

            2. BAH, NSA, the CIA, and certain very notable groups of people in the U.S. power structure are thick as thieves.

            3. There is a clear pattern, as least to my mind, in which countries (probably country) internal issues are the goal of this surveillance. Check this heat map of NSA activity:


            4. The U.S. power structure, at least those with the most entrenched rentier cash flows, have interests congruent with keeping a certain regime, the one most obviously ‘benefitting’ from the espionage, in power.

            5. The GWOT is predicated on targeting a group of people who are, quite conveniently, also the opponents of a that same regime.

            6. The regime in question has no compunction at all about handling dissent. And the U.S. has never really protested. But the regime would benefit massively from U.S. intelligence gathering. Particularly when there is gathering outside of the country in question—opponents of the regime would likely be much less careful outside it than they should be.

            7. Where are all these drone strikes happening?

            This is a finance blog. I hope some of you have considered whose financial cooperation is very important to maintaining the power of the really entrenched interests in the U.S.

          2. sgt_doom

            The comment below by D. Logos is incorrect.

            The Carlyle Group controls Explorer Coinvest LLC and is the majority owner of Booz Hamilton.

            (And for the record, anyone who has intensively studied the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group over the past 15 years realizes that Carlyle is essentially a subset of the Blackstone Group, with personnel flow going between the two PE/LBO firms.)

        2. Dikaios Logos

          I like a lot of what you wrote here, particularly about oligarchs’ indifference to individual countries.

          But it seems to me you have fallen into a trap or two, the kind of traps that are used to keep Americans from supplying effective opposition to these policies.

          First, your ideas re:Bangladesh seem to contradict your idea about oligarchic indifference to countries. Of course there exist political elements that have rhetoric that is hostile to the U.S. and to religious pluralism. Similar elements exist in every country. But you will notice none the reporting mentions the size of the protests. This is country with over 150 million people, do you think getting even 100,000 people on the streets means that there is a huge constituency for these views? And regardless of the size of the protests, do you not understand that as long as there are vulnerable people in Bangladesh it will be easy for these oligarchs, who as you say are indifferent to individual countries, to play people off each other? As long as you can find someone desperate enough to work in the conditions present in that collapsed factory, an American who works in the garment industries for even minimum wage is very vulnerable.

          And as for Libertarians, let’s not forget that in the U.S. they are the pet project of the most shameless American oligarchs of all, the Koch brothers. This is a family that got it’s early start in business by working with Stalin, that was found to run an enterprise that stole from poor American Indians and the U.S. tax payer (I’m talking about their pipeline business), that has every top lobbyist in DC on its payroll, and that is currently using congress to play the Canadians off the Venezuelans to secure the Keystone pipeline. Anarchy or whatever you call it seems a great improvement over being those guys’ serfs.

          One thing I would guess we do agree on is that part of the technique of oligarchs is to play around national boundaries to reduce their risks. To my mind this works not just because you are outside the legal system of a country, but also because you are operating outside of what the citizens of a country are able to follow and comprehend easily. I think the first order and most important issues with this scandal aren’t about American oligarchs attacking Americans’ civil liberties, they are about control risks by doing seriously evil things well outside the purview of the American voter.

    1. from Mexico

      @ nobody

      Regarding the “He’s starting to come off as a man without a country, an anarchist even” comment, all this has to do with the conscience.

      For some people, the conscience is concerned with no one but the self. For others, the immediate family might take precedence over the self in the mysterious workings of the conscience. For others, it might be the Democratic or Republican Party. For others, it might be the nation. For Chris E., he was quite explicit when he says “I am partial to the nation-state” and “I care about the American worker, and those who are on par with our culture and lifestyles (Europeans).” For others, it is the community of mankind, regardless of skin color, nationality, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc. And for others the conscience is truly transcendent, and it is the cosmos, what Albert Einstein called “the cosmic religious feeling,” which most concerns it.

      There’s an intriguing and most informative history program produced in conjunction with the Metropolitan Museum of Art that deals extensively with this subject:

      As is explained, the idea that the conscience operates independently from the state did not exist in the earlier advanced civilizations (Egyptian and Mesopotamian), and is believed to be a cultural product and innovation of the Greeks. Since then, throughout the almost 3000-year run of Classical and Western civilization, there has been a constant and ongoing battle over which should be sovereign over individual action: Should it be the individual’s conscience? Or should it be the state?

      Political absolutism, of course, requires the total surrender and submission of the individual conscience to the state.

  7. chris_gee

    I wonder if the ability to access this data could be channeled against corruption amongst politicians and their manipulators.

    1. Brick

      Dear Congres Person.

      My name is abuavalark and I am a Nigerian national who I think can provide you with a great service.My cousin has the fabulous fortune to work consciously in the USA serving your country as a cleaner at your NSA prism facility. Late one night while emptying bins she mistakenly put a piece of paper in her pocket with some passwords on. Thank the lord, realising her great mistake she emailed a photo of the details and asked my advice on what to do. I am glad in telling her to destroy the information but with concern for your safetiness I ask some chinese friends whether the passwords have meaning.To my crazy shock I am becoming aware from the information they acquired that you are being a very naughty person. For soothing your conscience I am advising you to contribute to a worthy cause called freesnowdenIwantarollsroyce.

      Yours in praise abuavalark nosceryus.

      Brick Says :
      Put a lot of data in once place and it becomes a target for nefarious activity. Imagine if you were dishonest what you could do with lists of illicit phone calls.Its just a matter of time before any government data storage gets compromised.The question might not be do you trust your government with the information but do you trust them to keep that information safe even if it is just that you were on facebook for 5 minutes on your phone when you should have been working.

      AS for snowden then I would be surprised if he had not been advised to get a PR expert to try to get the chinese and hong kong populace on his side (maybe a News of the World PR person). The ban on british flights sounds like the UK government is afraid of saying no to the US whilst knowing it would face a crisis of confidence if it sent him to the US (best not to have him in the UK at all and face the choice).

      (Obviously the letter above is a joke, is not authentic and should not be taken as a request for money or as an intent to blackmail, and dont contribute to any request like this.)

    2. Joe Rebholz

      Yes, of course all this phone data could be made public on the internet for any person, any agency to use as they see fit. A future Congress, a future administration could do this.

  8. james

    Somethings off here and I just can’t put my finger on it at the moment.I find it very strange that Obama went to China and it was said he gave China direct acess to debts auction. Never in 237 years in history a foreign government been granted such intimate acess to Capital Hill which begs to question is the under the rule of…..?And to think that is exactly where Ed Snowden runs.Strange thing here.

  9. Dikaios Logos

    This release gives me two reasons to think Snowden might be more sophisticated than he first appeared to be.

    First, he has upped the stakes after letting his opponents show their hands. Even people who are very artful at multi-dimensional chess make mistakes, but he is clearly somewhat aware of these techniques. And the game isn’t over yet.

    Second, he has provided something that affirms what I have suspected since these items began appearing in the press. That much of what is important about these activities isn’t the vulnerabilities of Americans’ civil liberties, though I would agree that they are in danger. What is massively important and massively under-researched and reported is how these activities are used to defend against attacks that target the vulnerabilities of entrenched American elites. Basically, consider what threats keep those who run the richest rentier scams up at night? I hate to say it, but the U.S. domestic politics of the past 5 or so year tells me that they have a pretty strong hold on the U.S.: getting people interested in fixing things is hard and the erstwhile opposition is heavily fractured by identity politics. But I think there is a clear pattern of the NSA actions to protecting certain domestic interests, albeit by targeting non-U.S. nationals. Check the heat map on where the NSA is most active and consider the pretext used to justify these actions. To my mind they paint a very, very clear picture of a foreign regime being defended, a foreign regime whose cooperation with the U.S. and whose continued existence is critical to keeping virtually all the main scams in the U.S. going strong.

    1. optimader

      …This release gives me two reasons to think Snowden might be more sophisticated than he first appeared to be….

      What part of how he first appeared seemed unsophisticated?

      1.)Securing a position at CIA then Booze Allen?
      2.)aggregating and removing confidential information?
      3.)Or having done all that, taking a flight to a country with no extradition treaty –and having the information available at location B,C,D…n?

      So.. now that he has released some embarrassing info vis a vie China, what is the rest of the “iceberg” that is in some file-bombs that will be released in the event a webcrawler finding articles describing his suspicious disappearance/death?

      1. Dikaios Logos

        Did I ever say he was “unsophisticated”? I was one who, for reasons I’ll pass on sharing here, always thought his choice of Hong Kong was very smart. But, he has still shown himself to be more sophisticated (at least to me!) than he seemed a week ago. And I sincerely hope he proves himself more and more sophisticated each week. Given what he has chosen to confront, he needs all the help he can get.

        BTW, I don’t see that your listing of his life proves that he is off the charts sophisticated. There are a lot of people working at those organizations and plenty of them are schlubs, often that’s why they are picked. While Yves has on occasion posted about how it is actually much more frequent than is commonly understood for secrets to be held by many people (and I know this to be true), these organizations still employ many simpletons as employees and segment information to maintain secrecy.

        Sophistication in this realm comes down to:

        1. Breadth of knowledge. The pieces together can look very different than they do in isolation.

        2. Analytical ability. Even with broad knowledge people miss connections.

        3. Imagination. Huge numbers of people who do this work are kind of simple, that means it never, ever occurs to them to dig deeper.

        All that being said, I don’t know for sure what the ‘rest of the “iceberg”’ is. But my 11:57 am comment lays out, in rough terms, who I think these programs are designed to benefit above all others. I’m deliberately oblique, as I think I don’t need to name anyone specifically to make this line of thinking clear. It might be incorrect, but it is not uninformed.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          If only Russia had a similarly ambiguous territory like Hong Kong, he would have been able to go there as well to seek refuge by claiming their tradition of democracy.

        2. optimader

          ..Did I ever say he was “unsophisticated”? I was one who, for reasons I’ll pass on sharing here, always thought his choice of Hong Kong was very smart…

          rdgr that

  10. Enslavedlikeyou

    I just finished watching Parts I, II and III of “The Power Principle” (on youtube) and find it quite painful to admit how sheepishly blind I’ve been to eat the pre-packaged manure fed to me by our U.S. leadership.

    Snowden is a global citizen and I appreciate the awakening.

  11. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

    There is something big moving under the surface. I don’t think we have enough information yet to understand what’s happening. Different elite factions having a tussle?
    All this data harvesting is being done for purposes of control, blackmail and espionage. It’s got very little to do with terrorism and much more to do with creating a hermetic, escape proof prison out of the whole world.
    So naturally, there will be many elite groups who feel they’ll be left on the outs, since a very few will have access to all this and they’ll have every global political players online foibles at their fingertips.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Different factions.

      I would assume the Chinese military/intelligence factions would want to keep Snowden there.

      The I-have-a-few-mansions-in-Malibu/several-factories-in-Alabama/I-plan-escape-to-the-West factions along the coastal regions of China would seek to cooperate.

  12. ScottS

    Where have I heard:

    While many senior members of Congress have already labelled Mr Snowden a “traitor”, some lawmakers have started to raise suspicions about his links to China.

    as well as

    “He clearly has overinflated his position, he has overinflated his access and he’s even overinflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do,” said Mr Rogers. “It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

    So he is a nobody that knew nothing as well as the worst traitor ever. What secrets is he supposedly selling if he has no secrets to sell? Sounds familiar…

    Paging Mr. Lamo. We need you and your priestly skills in a chat room.

  13. optimader

    I await confirmation that there is no truth to the rumor Bobby Ray Inman’s brother was the faculty advisor to Mr. Snowdens H.S. computer club.

    One thing for sure, there is some serious crying in Booze Allen’s beer. I wonder if the NSA can follow where they forward Mr. Snowden’s severance package paperwork to?

  14. Dr Duh

    I think the move to HK was quite brilliant. China is not about to allow us to render him there. While I’m sure we have covert assets in HK, I assume it is far more difficult to operate than in say France.

    I’m sure they could kill him if they wanted to, but I would be shocked if he didn’t have a retaliatory mechanism in place. Clearly PRISM/Palintir etc make the old, “if something happens to me mail these letters” gambit ineffective. But I would not be surprised if he has a file on Mega and a bot somewhere that will launch it if he doesn’t check in.

    The legal extradition approach looked promising until I read the implied threat in the NYT article… if you arrest me, all these data I’ve got will fall into the hands of the Hong Kong police, who will be required to turn it over to China. In the meantime, we’ll have an extradition trial in which I will get to make my case that I’m a prisoner of conscience. Oh, and the controlling authority will have no incentive whatsoever to prevent me from presenting classified or embarrassing evidence.

    The US can try to pressure HK, but they are insulated by their relationship to China. The Chinese in turn can claim that HK judiciary is independent. But they have a long term interest in damaging US credibility so they will no doubt allow a prolonged embarrassing trial.

    While I’m sure the US could make it worth China’s while, I’m not sure that Snowden represents such an existential threat that we would, say, trade publicly turning our back on the Dalai Lama for him. And given Obama’s near lame duck status and the realities of US politics, I’m not sure we’re in a position to make long term promises.

    I think the key to his position is keeping the US security state guessing about his endgame. As long as they are unsure of how much he’s got and how intent he is on hurting them they will be reluctant to “take their medicine” and kill him. I assume his strategy is to stay alive/free long enough to force a public discussion of the security state through public statements and strategic leaks. But he probably realizes that he stands a high likelihood of ending up dead or buried in a SuperMax.

    Well played.

  15. Lord Slobber

    If only the NSA could monitor the important things, from Sandy Weil to Chris Van Hollen. Every phone call, every contact. Deep packet inspection of Covington Burling LLP, satellite tracking of Tim “Foam” Geithner and Ex- Justice Stooge Breuer. Why we’d be able to hold the killers of Sunny Sheu accountable.

    1. Joe Rebholz

      They could. Then they could leak the information. Or a hacker maybe could get the same information without going to any NSA databases. Or somebody might make a mistake — ops — and compromising data gets released unintentionally. Or a new administration could do it. Nixon sought to use tax records against some of his political enemies. Information leaks, always.

  16. ronbon

    As a WWII veteran, I am thoroughly disenchanted, appalled and disgusted by the barely mortal (or is it “morbid?”) remains of the wonderful country that I once helped preserve rot like a fish “from the head down”!

    There is barely any politician today in whom I have even the slightest confidence when the question of “greed versus integrity” is posed (except for Jim Gray); add to that the ever-present spectre posed by capitalism gone awry and the vile deal is “sealed!

    One can but wonder how much longer it will take for the (alleged) “public servants” to destroy the carefully crafted balance between “public good” and “corporate greed”.

    The pendulum is swinging and each passing day moves it ever closer to exposing the fallacy of “trusting” those schooled at the fountain of “ill-gotten gains” with responsibility for perpetuating the naive notion of “honesty and integrity”.

    In the late-lamented election of 2012 I was unable to find a major party candidate who met even my loosest definition of “public good”; I finally found an answer that while intellectually satisfying was also reminiscent of WWII “kamikaze” pilots….and assumed the role of a
    modern Don Quixote. Ergo, my vote for Dr. Jill Stein…..and a huge “BANZAI”>>>!!!!!!!!!

    1. Jack Friday

      We’re officially arming Al Qeada this time. Eric Holder is gonna git “the person” responsible since national security “has been hurt.” Not sure when they are coming for us.

  17. dannyc

    All the interesting above comments aside, I tend to take Snowden at his word: that he’s out to expose criminality. And that –if nothing else –is what’s so exciting about all the events of the last eight days. Here is someone who is proving his belief in the rule of law by placing his very life in its hands. We should have an Attorney General with such commitment.

  18. Lee

    Oh hell, let the Chinese have “our” state secrets; just send back our outsourced jobs and fugitive capital in exchange.

    1. jrs

      Might stop funding U.S. debt though. Wait this is an MMT crowd, we can fund our own debt. But if that’s really true, then why does the U.S. *choose* to get money from china? Stranger and stranger …

  19. washunate

    This is a fantastic continuing reminder that the fundamental problem in our society is the breakdown in the rule of law – the two tiered justice system. We are run by criminals, and thus trying to expose crime is the ultimate expression of treason.

  20. Hugh

    The American propaganda apparatus is going to depict Snowden as a bad man and anything he does as self-interested and unAmerican. It will continue to throw mud at him secure in the knowledge that at least some of it is bound to stick. This demonization, of course, is not just aimed at Snowden, to undercut public support for him, but is intended as a warning to any other potential whistleblowers of what they can expect.

    In these latest revelations, all Snowden is doing is exposing the hypocrisy of the US government that rails against others hacking it and American corporations even as it hacks everybody.

    All of this is to distract attention away from the massive illegal and unConstitutional spying on us by the government. Yeah, look over there at that creep Snowden. If the government can make this about Snowden, they win. And I think they are having some success in this. This success may seem strange but it is not unusual. Even though we know or should know that every government official and elected representative who has attacked Snowden is lying their head off, at some level we start believing them anyway. They count on this. Muddying the waters is the first step to defusing the situation. This is why we need to keep our focus firmly on the core issue of the government’s illegal spying on us.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Much as I admire Snowden and what he is doing, I wish he had 1) Waited an additional week before revealing his identity and 2) Avoided this kerfuffle

      Granted he may have super valid reasons for both. Granted even that this may be some “genius” strategy. But until either or both of those are clear, this has taken away from focus on the main issue; unconstitutional – illegal – spying. This China stuff; it’s asking a lot of people saturated with 40+ years of hard core 360 degree Archie Bunker propaganda to suddenly know how to keep their eyes on the ball.

      Greenwald is an expert at this sort of thing. He has an article that touches on the subject today. BE CAREFUL, methodical, appearances ARE important.

      Then I suppose it’s easy to talk. What Snowden is experiencing must be true hell to handle in the flesh and on the spot. It would have gotten messy regardless. And no matter what happens, US spying on it’s own citizens is now public knowledge.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The DoD is accusing him of defecting. This would happen with an extra week except they would have time to get their story straight. Lets be honest, anyone who is attacking Snowden as a high school dropout will be forced to question hiring practices at the NSA over time. This was a great move.

        If Snowden is so awful, why didn’t General Alexander have a problem with high school dropouts having access to this information? Greenwald and Snowden are exposing the bipartisan frauds running this country. If they have more, let these jerks make it about Snowden, while they hit back with corporate and government malfeasance.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I used to think love is the cleanest energy.

          It appears honesty is also the cleanest energy.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Smart hedgies are probably thinking of ways to work with NSA in return for tracking all CEO’s, who is meeting with who, for any potential mergers/acquisitions.

            Heck, NSA could go into business for itself…OK, maybe not NSA, but at least their contractors.

  21. Glen

    If the NSA is sharing data with large trans-national corporations, just how long is it before the NSA is exchanging data with other countries like China?

    After all, guys like Snowden are double edged swords, demonstrating the power individuals can exercise against the state. People power is not something the Chinese want to encourage.

    At best he’ll be treated like a rattlesnake by the Chinese, as someone to be milked for his venom and then quietly disposed.

  22. Fiver

    Many excellent comments.

    As noted elsewhere, the US has been under a State of Emergency since immediately post-9/11, renewed each year after by both Bush and Obama, which has provided the blanket “Anything we do is legal” claims of the Executive Branch (see yesterday’s Washington’s Blog for more details). It is the continuation of this “emergency” that simply must be rescinded before any of the other otherwise clear and savage violations of multiple Constitutional guarantees can be addressed – else the Supreme Court will support the Feds every time out.

    And of course, the “emergency” always was bogus – as informed, thinking observers have known from the beginning.

  23. Conscience of a Conservative

    Find it more than a little interesting, that Holder failed to prosecute just just about anyone associated with Wall Street for any financial crimes committe pre/post 2008, but vows to bring Snowden to justice.

    That said the South China Morning Post interview will not generate sympathies in the U.S. for his postion and will only embolden those wishing to label him traitor. He should have stuck to discussing privacy rights issue violations of the average American.

    1. JCC

      Bad form, I know, to reply to one’s own post, but in fairness I got the above from an O’Reilly newsletter I subscribe to (Tim O’Reilly’ publishing house). O’Reilly has always been a strong supporter of open-source, open government and the EFF.

      Hopefully the above is not too far off topic, but I really think it may be time to start laughing at all this. Nothing else seems to be working.

      Per the blurb that came with the above link…

      “You know what a hassle it is, you get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court order, you have to go churning through all your user logs to find the data the government wants, and all you really want to do is tune your Rails app to perform better. But now your whole day is blown.

      Fear not, for now you can add a self-service portal for the NSA, FBI, or any other law enforcement agency that feels the need to snoop through your user data. The handy nsa_panel Rails module will have you government-compliant in under 10 minutes, leaving you free to return to more interesting matters.

      According to the release notes, the latest updates will let you send a drone strike against offending users with just a click of the mouse. Hah, PHP fanatics, beat that level of service.”

      — Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe

    1. JCC

      Maybe he should saddle up a dinosaur and take a trip (with the spirit of James Madison) to Hong Kong for a visit.

    2. jurisV

      Please Lambert — a little more fleshing out of your comment. I mean this sincerely because I am addicted to your intelligent comments.

      I may be a bit fuzzy due to happy hour, but I’ve read that Pierce column several times before the happy hour stuff because I thought he was wrong, wrong, wrong in trusting Rick Perlstein’s column.

      Has “Moral Hazard” been associating with Perlstein and sniffed out Rick’s elitist leanings and is on to him and his pal Karl Fogel? Or has the dog been licking inappropriate balls and become comatose?

      In an argument concerning legal interpretations/semantics between a tech savvy lawyer and a team of a historian & open source tech guru — I put my money and faith in the lawyer; Especially after I wallowed in all the comments and updates on all of the associated blogs. Yuck!

    3. Hugh

      Apparently Snowden and Greenwald are too DFH for Pierce, and he feels it is time that the whole matter was turned over to Serious People, you know like him.

    4. jurisV

      I thought “Moral Hazard” the dog belonged to David Brooks. I just remembered MH’s lineage and now I’m really confused. Is MH now living with Pierce? Whatever. What I’m not confused about is that our government and its leaders are scamming us big-time.

  24. albertchampion

    i find all these comments so interesting.

    sort of reminds me how it has been that so many dismissed what i was trying to tell them years ago about the secret state.

    the first book that really laid it out was published in kiwiland in 1996. by a kiwi journalist name of nicky hager. entitled SECRET POWER. it was an astonishing investigation of ECHELON. i think that the book was never available in the usa. nor england. nor australia. nor canada. as i recall.

    i have long thought that ECHELON is the model for what snowden is reporting. except tht snowden is telling you that ECHELON became pumpled up on steroids.

    as to corporations/foundations functioning as covers for spooks. nothing new. the ford motor corporation and the ford foundation were sanctuaries for spooks after ww2. if not before. never forget, henry 1’s german operations were the major suppliers of military vehicles to the wehrmacht. and general motor’s adam opel operations were second as i recall.

    in fact, in my experience traveling about the planet, i found that most u.s. corporations in their overseas offices, operations, sheltered spooks. sometimes at the general manager level.

    imperialism requires a large cast of agents.

    snowden may be just a guy who became blown-away by the enormity of what he encountered.

    on the other hand, he may have been an employee of an even more secret agency within the secret state. that has its own agendas.

    and finally, in closing, the scoundrel congressman peter king. his dear old friend, whitey bulger, is on trial in boston. their link, noram. the u.s. financing entity for sinn fein[the ira]. terrorism has many acolytes.

  25. beautiful corner

    You could definitely see your skills within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

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